What is a Change List?
Who Uses Them?

A Change List lists changes made between one edit and another version of the same edit. This comes into play when you’ve handed over the “Final” version to VFX, post audio and a color pass.

Motion picture editor Steve Cohen describes it in John Buck’s book Timeline 2:

“In film cutting rooms we used a special kind of handwritten note to help sound keep up with an evolving picture, something called a ‘change list’. We’d make a black and white copy of the current version and then begin to recut. When a reel was ready, the assistant editor would take the new cut, compare it to the dupe and, shot by shot, figure out what the changes were, writing them down in standard form for the sound editors to use in conforming their elements. A change list isn’t just a list of differences between versions, it’s a recipe, a procedure, which has to be followed precisely and in order, or it won’t work.”

Inevitably there will need to be some additional edits, for whatever reason. Another pass by the Director, Studio suggestions, feedback from a focus group: it’s inevitable.

Except those teams have already moved ahead with their jobs and have complex projects built around the timing of the first edit. They can’t take the new edit and start over. What they need are the steps to convert the version they been working on, to the latest revision: how many frames trimmed here, or added there; which shots have been added, and which deleted or replaced.

The Change List is the step-by-step instructions to convert the current project to conform to the new edit. This is frequently a manual process but there are advanced tools that use the text-based change list to automate the changes.